Businesses

If Data Is the New Oil, Are Tech Companies Robbing Us Blind? (digitaltrends.com) 154

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Trends: Data is the new oil, or so the saying goes. So why are we giving it away for nothing more than ostensibly free email, better movie recommendations, and more accurate search results? It's an important question to ask in a world where the accumulation and scraping of data is worth billions of dollars -- and even a money-losing company with enough data about its users can be worth well into the eight-figure region. The essential bargain that's driven by today's tech giants is the purest form of cognitive capitalism: users feed in their brains -- whether this means solving a CAPTCHA to train AI systems or clicking links on Google to help it learn which websites are more important than others. In exchange for this, we get access to ostensibly "free" services, while simultaneously helping to train new technologies which may one day put large numbers of us out of business.

In an age in which concepts like universal basic income are increasingly widely discussed, one of the most intriguing solutions is one first put forward by virtual reality pioneer Jaron Lanier. In his book Who Owns the Future?, Lanier suggests that users should receive a micropayment every time their data is used to earn a company money. For example, consider the user who signs up to an online dating service. Here, the user provides data that the dating company uses to match them with a potential data. This matching process is, itself, based on algorithms honed by the data coming from previous users. The data resulting from the new user will further perfect the algorithms for later users of the service. In the case that your data somehow matches someone else successfully in a relationship, Lanier says you would be entitled to a micropayment.

Advertising

Russia Reportedly Bought Thousands of Facebook Ads Sought To Stress Racial Divisions (thehill.com) 292

According to The Washington Post, Russia government actors bought Facebook advertisements during the 2016 election cycle that sought to exploit and divide based on hot-button racial issues. Some of the ads promoted civil rights groups such as Black Lives Matter, while others criticized them in an effort to sow division. The Hill reports: Facebook is handing over some 3,000 ads to congressional investigators as part of probes into the Kremlin's alleged effort to influence the outcome of last year's presidential election. Other ads allegedly highlighted Hillary Clinton's support among Muslim women and promoted anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant messages. Facebook didn't comment on the story, but did refer to a statement earlier this month from its chief privacy officer, Alex Stamos: "Rather, the ads and accounts appeared to focus on amplifying divisive social and political messages across the idealogical spectrum -- touching on topics from LGBT matters to race issues to immigration to gun rights."
Transportation

Dubai Starts Tests in Bid To Become First City With Flying Taxis (reuters.com) 63

Dubai staged a test flight on Monday for what it said would soon be the world's first drone taxi service under an ambitious plan by the United Arab Emirates city to lead the Arab world in innovation. From a report: The flying taxi developed by German drone firm Volocopter resembles a small, two-seater helicopter cabin topped by a wide hoop studded with 18 propellers. It was unmanned for its maiden test run in a ceremony arranged for Dubai Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed. Meant to fly without remote control guidance and with a maximum flight duration of 30 minutes, it comes with plenty of fail-safes in case of trouble: back-up batteries, rotors and, for a worst case scenario, a couple of parachutes.
Intel

Intel Launches 16 and 18-Core Core i9 Desktop Chips To Take On AMD Threadripper (hothardware.com) 119

MojoKid writes: Intel has officially launched its Skylake-X processor offering in response to AMD's Ryzen Threadripper series of desktop CPUs. The new Core i9-7980XE and Core i9-7960X are 18 and 16-core configurations respectively, with 2.6GHz and 2.8GHz base clocks and 4.4GHz max boost clocks. Both chips support Intel HyperThreading, with 36 threads of processing for the 7980XE and 32 for the 7960X, while both also have 44 lanes of PCI Express connectivity and support for DDR4-2666MHz memory. Both chips also utilize Intel's X299 chipset platform and are LGA 2066 socket compatible. The Core i9-7980XE has 24.75MB of shared L3 cache, 1MB of L2 cache per core, and a TDP of 165W. The Core i9-7960X's details are essentially same, though two processor cores and the cache associated with them have been lopped off. The Core i9-7960X has a couple of advantages, however, in that its base clock is 200MHz higher than the flagship Core i9-7980XE and it has higher all-core frequency boost to 3.6GHz, while the 7908XE tops out at 3.4GHz on all cores. The new chips are multi-threaded beasts in the benchmarks, posting the highest scores seen to date in heavily threaded workloads. They also offer strong single-threaded performance that outpaces AMD's Ryzen processors. Power consumption is surprisingly good as well and only marginally higher than the 10-core Core i9-7900X. However, at $1999 for the Core i9-7980XE and $1699 for the Core i9-7960X, as usual with Intel high-end chips, they're certainly not cheap.
Social Networks

Instagram Now Has 800 Million Monthly, 500 Million Daily Active Users (cnbc.com) 29

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: Instagram said Monday that it's added another 100 million monthly users. That brings the photo-sharing app to 800 million monthly active users, up from 700 million in April, according to Carolyn Everson, vice president of global marketing solutions at Facebook, who spoke at an Advertising Week event in New York City. Five hundred million of those are daily active users, the company said. That means that Instagram is still ahead of rival Snap in terms of users, based on Snap's last report. Snap said in August that it had 173 million daily active users. Time spent watching video on Instagram is up more than 80 percent year over year, the company also said on Monday, and four times as many videos are being produced every day on Instagram compared with a year ago.
Transportation

Tesla Model 3 Owners Share More Info On Model (arstechnica.com) 177

Owners at the Model 3 Owners Club compiled a list of over 80 different features of the Model 3 they're curious about, including questions about how the car operates (does the card unlock all the doors, where does the UI show you that your turn signals are active), physical aspects of the car (what does the tow hitch attachment look like, how much stuff can you fit in the front and rear cargo areas), and subjective details (how aggressive is the energy regeneration, does that wood trim cause glare). Ars Technica reports: So far, we've learned a few interesting facts. For instance, the windshield wipers are turned on and off by a stalk like just about every other car on the market, but changing the speed (slow/fast/intermittent) is handled by a menu on the touchscreen. The stalk also does double duty turning on the headlights, and there are no rain sensors for the wipers. The touchscreen UI really is the only way to interact with every other function, according to owners, even the rear air vents are controlled from up front (although there are USB ports in the back). Rear seat passengers also won't get seat heaters from what we gather -- unless Tesla plans to activate them in a later software update -- and the steering wheel is not heated either. The two buttons on the steering wheel do not appear to be user-configurable. Instead, the left button primarily deals with audio functions (scroll up and down for volume, left and right to change track) while the other one is for adjusting the mirrors and steering wheel position while in those menus in the UI. Additionally it appears that as of now, there's no way to tab through a different part of the UI without taking your hands off the steering wheel.
Software

Is Project Management Killing Good Products, Teams and Software? (techbeacon.com) 176

New submitter mikeatTB writes: "For software development, no significant developer activity is predictable or repetitive; if it were, the developers would have automated it already," writes Steven A. Lowe, Principal Consultant Developer at ThoughtWorks, via TechBeacon. "In addition, learning is essentially a nonlinear process; it involves trying things that don't work in order to discover what does work. You might see linear progress for a while, but you don't know what you don't know, so there will be apparent setbacks. It is from these setbacks that one learns the truth about the system -- what is really needed to make it work, to make it usable, and to make a difference for the users and the business. In other words, the dirty little secret of software development is that projects don't really exist. And they're killing our products, teams, and software." Lowe continues: "Projects, with respect to software development, are imaginary boxes drawn around scope and time in an attempt to 'manage' things. This tendency is understandable, given the long fascination with so-called scientific management (a.k.a. Taylorism, a.k.a. Theory X), but these imaginary boxes do not reduce underlying complexity. On the contrary, they add unnecessary complexity and friction and invite a counterproductive temptation to focus on the box instead of the problem or product. This misplaced emphasis leads to some harmful delusions: Conformance to schedule is the same thing as success; Estimation accuracy is possible and desirable enough to measure and optimize for; The plan is perfect and guarantees success; The cost of forming and dissolving teams is zero; The cost of functional silo hand-offs is zero; The bigger and more comprehensive the plan, the better; Predictability and efficiency are paramount."
The Almighty Buck

Waymo Clarifies It Actually Wants $1.8 Billion From Uber (techcrunch.com) 23

Last week, a lawyer for Uber said Waymo was seeking about $2.6 billion from the company for the alleged theft of one of several trade secrets in a lawsuit over self-driving cars. Over the weekend, Waymo filed a document with the court noting that the correct figure was actually $1.859 billion. TechCrunch reports: It's not clear why this seemingly important detail was left uncorrected for nearly a week. The filing also includes some additional clarification around the way in which the damages figure was calculated. Though Waymo is arguing that nine trade secrets were put in jeopardy by Anthony Levandowski, it is seeking a maximum of $1.8 billion in damages. That figure is the value that Waymo is attributing to a single trade secret -- trade secret 25. The other eight secrets are being individually valued at less than $1.8 billion. Consequently, Waymo is capping the damages at the value of its most valuable compromised trade secret. Waymo's attorneys note that the $1.8 billion figure was calculated based on an estimate of "Uber's unjust enrichment from Uber's trade secret misappropriation." Waymo continues that the damages are based on Uber's own profitability forecasts of deploying autonomous vehicles into its ridesharing business.
Censorship

China Blocks WhatsApp (theverge.com) 104

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: China has blocked WhatsApp, security experts confirmed today to The New York Times (Warning: source may be paywalled). Over the past few months, WhatsApp has experienced brief disruptions to service, with users unable to send video chats or photos. Now, even text messages are completely blocked, according to Nadim Kobeissi, an applied cryptographer at Symbolic Software, a Paris-based research firm that also monitors digital censorship in China. Kobeissi found that China may have recently upgraded its firewall to detect and block the NoiseSocket protocol that WhatsApp uses to send texts, in addition to already blocking the HTTPS/TLS that WhatsApp uses to send photos and videos. He said, "I think it took time for the Chinese firewall to adapt to this new protocol so that it could also target text messages." His company noticed the app disruptions beginning last Wednesday.
Security

Deloitte Hit By Cyber-attack Revealing Clients' Secret Emails (theguardian.com) 49

Accounting firm Deloitte confirmed on Monday it had suffered a cyberattack. From a report: One of the world's "big four" accountancy firms has been targeted by a sophisticated hack that compromised the confidential emails and plans of some of its blue-chip clients, the Guardian can reveal (the company has since confirmed the breach). Deloitte, which is registered in London and has its global headquarters in New York, was the victim of a cybersecurity attack that went unnoticed for months. One of the largest private firms in the US, which reported a record $37bn revenue last year, Deloitte provides auditing, tax consultancy and high-end cybersecurity advice to some of the world's biggest banks, multinational companies, media enterprises, pharmaceutical firms and government agencies. The Guardian understands Deloitte clients across all of these sectors had material in the company email system that was breached. The companies include household names as well as US government departments
Security

DDoS Attacks Will Now Be 'Something You Only Read About In The History Books', Says Cloudflare CEO (vice.com) 100

Louise Matsakis, writing for Motherboard: Cloudflare, a major internet security firm, is on a mission to render distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks useless. The company announced Monday that every customer -- including those who only use its free services -- will receive a new feature called Unmetered Mitigation, which protects against every DDoS attack, regardless of its size. Cloudflare believes the move is set to level the internet security playing field: Now every website will be able to fight back against DDoS attacks for free. "The standard practice in the industry for some time has been to charge more if you come under attack," Matthew Prince, the CEO of Cloudflare, told me on a phone call last week. Firms often "fire you as a customer if you're not sort of paying enough and you get a large attack," he explained. "That's kind of gross."
Desktops (Apple)

Apple Releases macOS High Sierra; Ex-NSA Hacker Publishes Zero-Day 53

Apple today released the newest version of its operating system for Macs, macOS High Sierra, to the public. macOS High Sierra is a free download, and offers a range of new features and improvements including the new Apple File System, and support for High Efficiency Video Encoding (HEVC) for better compression without loss of quality, and HEIF for smaller photo sizes. Zack Whittaker, reporting for ZDNet: Patrick Wardle, a former NSA hacker who now serves as chief security researcher at -- Synack, posted a video of the hack -- a password exfiltration exploit -- in action. Passwords are stored in the Mac's Keychain, which typically requires a master login password to access the vault. But Wardle has shown that the vulnerability allows an attacker to grab and steal every password in plain-text using an unsigned app downloaded from the internet, without needing that password.
Movies

Amazon Slashes Prices on 4K Content in Response To Apple TV 4K's Launch (theverge.com) 25

An anonymous reader shares a report: One of the many announcements at Apple's keynote a couple weeks ago was that 4K movies would be added to iTunes at the same price as HD content. Previously purchased HD movies would also be upgraded to 4K for free, though for streaming only. In response, Amazon Video has drastically slashed the prices of its own 4K content to match iTunes. As Pocket Lint notes, Amazon Video's 4K selection is not only limited in comparison to Apple's, but was incredibly expensive with purchases running over $30. (This price was comparable to services like Vudu and Google, but Apple's worked out deals to offer 4K HDR movies at $19.99.) Over the weekend, it appears prices for 4K titles on Amazon Video are now starting at around $5, with newer releases in the range of $7 to $19.
Google

Apple Replaces Bing With Google as Search Engine For Siri and Spotlight (geekwire.com) 54

Apple is ditching Bing and will now use Google to power the default search engine for Siri, Search within iOS (iOS search bar), and Spotlight on Mac. From a report: TechCrunch reported Monday that Apple users will now see search results powered by Google, instead of Bing, when using those tools. For example, when an iPhone user asks Siri a question that needs a search engine result, the voice assistant will now pull from Google, not Bing. Apple will still use Bing for image search queries using Siri or Spotlight on Mac, TechCrunch reported. Apple said the move was done for consistency; its Safari browser uses Google as the default search engine. In a statement, the company told TechCrunch that "we have strong relationships with Google and Microsoft and remain committed to delivering the best user experience possible." Google is reportedly paying Apple $3 billion this year to remain as the default search engine on iPhones and iPads.
Government

President Donald Trump and His Daughter Ivanka To Unveil a New Federal Computer Science Initiative With Major Tech Backers (recode.net) 260

From a report: President Donald Trump will issue a new directive Monday to supercharge the U.S. government's support for science, tech, engineering and mathematics, including coding education, three sources familiar with the White House's thinking told Recode. To start, Trump is set to sign a presidential memorandum at the White House later today that tasks the Department of Education to devote at least $200 million of its grant funds each year to so-called STEM fields, as the administration seeks to train workers for high-demand computer-science jobs of the future. And on Tuesday, Trump's daughter and advisor, Ivanka, is expected to head to Detroit, where she will join business leaders for an event unveiling a series of private-sector commitments -- from Amazon, Facebook, Google, GM, Quicken Loans and others -- meant to boost U.S. coding and computer-science classes and programs, the sources said.
Bug

iOS 11 Is Causing Massive Battery Drain Problems (betanews.com) 158

Mark Wilson writes: A study conducted by security research firm Wandera shows that iOS 11 is causing iPhone and iPad batteries to drain faster than ever -- much faster. The difference between iOS 10 and iOS 11 is anything but minor; batteries can drain in half the amount of time following the upgrade. Wandera's report shows how, on average, an iPhone or iPad running iOS 10 takes 240 minutes of usage to drain the battery from 100 percent to zero. With iOS 11 installed, this number plummets to just 96 minutes -- over twice as fast. Users have also complained about the issue.
The Internet

Showtime Websites Are Mining Monero With Your CPU, Unclear If Hack Or Experiment (bleepingcomputer.com) 149

An anonymous reader writes: Two Showtime domains are currently loading and running Coinhive, a JavaScript library that mines Monero using the CPU resources of users visiting Showtime's websites. The two domains are showtime.com and showtimeanytime.com, the latter being the official URL for the company's online video streaming service. It is unclear if someone hacked Showtime and included the mining script without the company's knowledge. Showtime did not respond to a request for comment, but it could be an experiment as the setThrottle value is 0.97, meaning the mining script will remain dormant for 97% of the time. Despite this, Coinhive has been recently adopted by a large number of malware operations, such as malvertisers, adware developers, rogue Chrome extensions, and website hackers, who secretly load the code in a page's background and make money off unsuspecting users. At least two ad blockers have added support for blocking Coinhive's JS library -- AdBlock Plus and AdGuard -- and developers have also put together Chrome extensions that terminate anything that looks like Coinhive's mining script -- AntiMiner, No Coin, and minerBlock.

The Pirate Bay recently ran tests using Coinhive. A recent report has calculated that a site like The Pirate Bay could make around $12,000 per month by mining Monero in the background.

Microsoft

Microsoft Connects LinkedIn and Office 365 Via Profile Cards, Starting To Capitalize on $26B Deal (geekwire.com) 52

More than a year after Microsoft announced its plans to purchase LinkedIn for $26.2 billion, the technology giant is rolling out some of the first integrations with the business social network. From a report: At its Ignite conference in Orlando this morning, Microsoft plans to announce that Office 365 will include a new "profile card" that can display LinkedIn information. For example, interviewers using Outlook would be able to easily access LinkedIn profiles of job seekers. This integration, the first between Office 365 and LinkedIn since the acquisition, is designed to make it easier for people to search for others inside their organizations. Here's how it works, according to the company: "Users who have access to this feature can access LinkedIn profile information by hovering over a person's name and navigating to the 'LinkedIn' tab on the new profile card. Microsoft service administrators continue to have control over organizational privacy and connected features in their tenant. We respect end-user privacy and will honor your LinkedIn privacy and profile visibility settings."
Businesses

Microsoft Teams is Replacing Skype for Business To Put More Pressure on Slack (theverge.com) 135

An anonymous reader shares a report: Microsoft Teams isn't even a year old, but it's about to replace Skype for Business. At Microsoft's Ignite conference in Orlando, Florida today, the software giant is revealing that it plans to kill off Skype for Business in favor of Microsoft Teams. Skype for Business took over from Lync, Microsoft's previous business chat app, back in 2015. Microsoft's original Teams launch made it look obvious that Skype for Business would eventually disappear, given the fact that Teams integrates most of Skype's functionality already. Microsoft says it has been building a new Skype infrastructure that has been "evolving rapidly," and it will serve as the enterprise-grade service for voice, video, and meetings in Microsoft Teams. A new Skype for Business server will be available in the second half of 2018 for customers not ready to move to Teams, but Microsoft is pushing Office 365 users will to move over to Teams as the key communications client instead of relying on Skype for Business.
Science

The Shorter Your Sleep, the Shorter Your Life: the New Sleep Science (independent.co.uk) 142

An anonymous reader shares a report: A "catastrophic sleep-loss epidemic" is causing a host of potentially fatal diseases, a leading expert has said. In an interview with the Guardian, Professor Matthew Walker, director of the Centre for Human Sleep Science at the University of California, Berkeley, said that sleep deprivation affected "every aspect of our biology" and was widespread in modern society. And yet the problem was not being taken seriously by politicians and employers, with a desire to get a decent night's sleep often stigmatised as a sign of laziness, he said. Electric lights, television and computer screens, longer commutes, the blurring of the line between work and personal time, and a host of other aspects of modern life have contributed to sleep deprivation, which is defined as less than seven hours a night. But this has been linked to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer's disease, obesity and poor mental health among other health problems. In short, a lack of sleep is killing us.
Red Hat Software

Analyst: Enterprises Trust Red Hat Because It 'Makes Open Source Boring' (redmonk.com) 105

Tech analyst James Governor reports on what he learned from Red Hat's "Analyst Day": So it turns out Red Hat is pretty good at being Red Hat. By that I mean Red Hat sticks to the knitting, carries water and chops wood, and generally just does a good job of packaging open source technology for enterprise adoption. It's fashionable these days to decry open source -- "it's not a business". Maybe not for you, but for Red Hat it sure is. Enterprises trust Red Hat precisely because it makes open source boring. Exciting and cool, on the other hand, often means getting paged in the middle of the night. Enterprise people generally don't like that kind of thing...

Red Hat remains an anomaly -- it makes money in open source. It has new revenue streams opening up. It is well positioned to keep doing the basics, but also now have a conversation with the C-suite about transformation.

The article notes the popularity of OpenShift, Red Hat's Kubernetes distribution for managing container-based applications. (OpenShift Container Platform, Red Hat's on-premises private PaaS product, now has 400 paying enterprise customers). And it also applauds Red Hat's 2016 launch of Open Innovation Labs -- a enterprise consulting service "to jumpstart innovation and software development initiatives using open source technology and DevOps methods."
Google

Ray Kurzweil Explains Why Technology Won't Eliminate Human Jobs (fortune.com) 409

Futurist Ray Kurzweil, now a director of engineering at Google, made an interesting argument in a new interview with Fortune: We have already eliminated all jobs several times in human history. How many jobs circa 1900 exist today? If I were a prescient futurist in 1900, I would say, "Okay, 38% of you work on farms; 25% of you work in factories. That's two-thirds of the population. I predict that by the year 2015, that will be 2% on farms and 9% in factories." And everybody would go, "Oh, my God, we're going to be out of work." I would say, "Well, don't worry, for every job we eliminate, we're going to create more jobs at the top of the skill ladder." And people would say, "What new jobs?" And I'd say, "Well, I don't know. We haven't invented them yet."

That continues to be the case, and it creates a difficult political issue because you can look at people driving cars and trucks, and you can be pretty confident those jobs will go away. And you can't describe the new jobs, because they're in industries and concepts that don't exist yet.

Kurzweil also argues that "the power and influence of governments is decreasing because of the tremendous power of social networks and economic trends..."

"A lot of people think things are getting worse, partly because that's actually an evolutionary adaptation: It's very important for your survival to be sensitive to bad news. A little rustling in the leaves may be a predator, and you better pay attention to that."

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